According to recent statements by a top official at the CDC, the governmental institutions responsible for our nation's health are currently debating whether obesity is somehow its own disease, just like cancer or tuberculosis. This development is due in large part to the corrupting influence of pharmaceutical companies, which see their revenues swelling along with growing panic over the so-called "obesity epidemic." If obesity is a disease, government and private insurance will cover their products. At the same time, if obesity is a disease, Draconian policies restricting our food choices are just over the horizon. At a congressional briefing last week, George Mensah, acting director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, was asked what efforts the federal government is taking to deem "obesity as a disease so that it can then be looked at in terms of reimbursement and payment." His troubling response:

This is being considered this very minute by several health and human services agencies. As you might know, the CDC has requested that this issue be revisited and it's definitely being discussed between CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but certainly NIH [the National Institutes of Health] and several HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] agencies.

The issue of obesity-as-disease also came up at an annual American Medical Association (AMA) meeting yesterday. Delegates voted to table for one year a resolution that would have urged the government "to recognize that obesity is a disease unto itself." The AMA's decision to postpone its resolution on the obesity-as-disease question shouldn't confuse anyone about the power of food cops in doctor smocks. Blame-the-food themes infest the AMA's guidelines to help doctors treat obese patients. They pin weight gain on "an overabundance of energy-dense food choices," "easy access to an abundance of calorie-dense, high-fat foods," and "societal pressures that expose individuals to high-calorie convenience foods." Not surprisingly, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), an eight-billion-dollar food cop, funded the AMA's obesity guidelines. RWJF, which recently announced that obesity "is our highest priority as a foundation and will be [our] highest priority for the next ten years," has given more than $50 million to the AMA. Interestingly, the woman who asked the CDC's Mensah about government programs reimbursing for obesity treatment works at Johnson & Johnson in "Federal Affairs." And Johnson & Johnson has a huge stake in seeing obesity classified as a disease. The company has invested significant resources in multiple attempts to develop an anti-obesity drug (see here, here, and here). One of its subsidiaries "markets lines of medical instruments for use in bariatric, or weight reduction, surgery for the morbidly obese." And the company reports that "a number of other affiliate companies offer products to help promote weight management and the treatment of weight-related conditions such as diabetes." Two Johnson & Johnson's subsidiaries are "Sponsors" of the American Obesity Association (AOA). Funded primarily by pharmaceutical companies, the mission of the Washington, DC-based AOA is to push for "reimbursement for obesity treatment and prevention." Along the way, AOA hypes obesity fears at every opportunity. It even called for new "fat taxes" to support anti-obesity programs. To achieve this goal of classifying obesity as a disease, Johnson & Johnson may also be working through the food cops at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The chairman of RWJF is the former vice president and general counsel of J&J. Of the remaining 15 board members, three more are retired executives of J&J, and one is the heir of the Johnson & Johnson fortune. RWJF hyping obesity could certainly contribute to their bottom line. And since about 60 percent of RWJF's assets are in Johnson & Johnson stock, having obesity classified as a disease would only grow the foundation's assets. The potential conflicts of interest reviewed above are just the beginning. Stay tuned for more about the troubling connections between the pharmaceutical industry and research that exaggerates the health risks of being overweight.